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In order to make sense of the objects we encounter in everyday life we largely rely on previous knowledge stored in our semantic memory. Semantic memory is considered dependent on lifelong experience and cultural knowledge. So far, a few studies have investigated the role of expertise on the organization of semantic memory, whereas life-long experience has largely been overlooked. In this study, we investigated this issue using food concepts. In particular, we administered different semantic tasks using food (natural and transformed) and non-food (living and non-living things) as stimuli to participants belonging to three different age cohorts (56–74, 75–91, 100–108), who were also asked to report on the dietary habits held throughout their life. In addition, we investigated to what extent psycholinguistic variables influence the semantic performance of different age cohorts. Results showed that Centenarians recognized natural food better than transformed food, while the other two groups showed the opposite pattern. According to our analyses, experience is responsible for this effect in Centenarians, as their dietary habits seem to suggest. Moreover, significant correlations between picture naming and age of acquisition, familiarity and frequency were observed. This study indicates that lifelong experience can shape conceptual knowledge of food concepts, and that semantic memory is less resilient to aging than initially thought.


School of Psychology

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.